Job actions approved by Baltimore County teachers

The Baltimore Sun

The Baltimore County teachers union voted yesterday to start job actions - including demonstrations and refusing assignments beyond their contracted workday - to protest the school board's recent decision not to seek across-the-board pay raises.

Cheryl Bost, president of the 9,000-member Teachers Association of Baltimore County, said the union met yesterday afternoon but had not decided when to begin the job actions or how long they would last.

The actions might begin April 1 to coincide with the first day of Maryland School Assessment testing, she said.

"We're looking at how we can target MSA testing to get the attention of folks," Bost said.

Teachers might demonstrate April 1 near the County Courts Building and the county government offices in Towson, she said. They might also start a work-to-rule job action that day, refusing to conduct after-school activities that are not part of their contract, Bost said.

"Our goal is not to hurt kids but to let parents and the public know that teachers do go above and beyond, and we do deserve pay raises," she said.

Last week, the school board approved Superintendent Joe A. Hairston's proposed $1.18 billion operating budget for the fiscal year that starts July 1. The budget includes a request for about $12 million for longevity and step increases for some teachers but does not include an across-the-board raise.

Bost has said that without those raises, hundreds of teachers will receive no increase, and some will take pay cuts after paying more toward pension and health care costs.

Hairston said last night that the school system does not take a position on union actions but that the budget preserves teacher positions and academic programs.

"In order to do what [the union] wants done, we'd have to cut teacher positions and programs, and that hurts children," he said.

School system budget officials have estimated that a 1 percent raise for teachers would cost about $5.2 million.

"These are tight economic times, and we have no fiscal autonomy," Hairston said. "We don't generate revenue. We're fiscally dependent on the funding agencies," such as the county and state governments.

When it met last week, the county school board did not add teacher pay raises after President JoAnn C. Murphy said she and the board's vice president, H. Edward Parker, had met with County Executive James T. Smith Jr. Murphy said Smith told them that the school system should avoid adding expenses to its budget.

gina.davis@baltsun.com

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